Introducing the CVC Gold Mine:
Award-Winning Publishers Share Their Best Tips

The 44 publications that earned the 2006-2007 CVC Gold Standard Award share a common dedication to their readers and advertisers. These publishers have been successful in maintaining high distribution, readership, receivership and purchasing score percentages. And now they’re sharing their “golden nuggets” of wisdom with you, starting with Publisher Mark Helmer of Helmer Printing in Beldenville, Wis. Helmer is a pro at keeping readers engaged with his two publications, The Shopper and The Free Press, and his efforts have landed huge readership numbers for both publications.

Golden Nugget #1: Keep readers engaged with fun and games.
From poker to pigskin picks, readers of The Shopper and The Free Press in Beldenville Wis., love to play games, so Publisher Mark Helmer keeps readership numbers elevated by sponsoring and coordinating those games. For example, the papers are currently hosting poker tournaments at different area establishments. The finals are held at a local casino, and the winner will receive a trip for two to Las Vegas. The Shopper and The Free Press cover the events and list the winners. Helmer Printing also coordinates a community pigskin picks contest. More than 2,000 readers play each fall, and participants have to read The Shopper or The Free Press to see if they’ve made a published list of the top 20-30 reader picks. In addition to boosting readership, the games engage advertisers because they enjoy being associated with the contests and often donate prizes and facilities.

Golden Nugget #2: Gain local appeal with micro-covers.
Publisher Mark Helmer’s readers identify with local communities that are much smaller than the distribution area of his two shoppers, The Shopper and The Free Press. “Our towns are very competitive and provincial,” Helmer said. “If you’re going into a town 15 miles away with a wrong ad on the front page, people are not going to read it.” As a result, Helmer creates six different covers, specifically targeted to local towns. While the inside pages are identical, advertising and editorial staff makes sure each cover appeals to the market in which it’s delivered. While he admits designing six different covers is time-consuming, it’s paid off in higher readership.

Golden Nugget #3: When customers complain, follow up and be proactive.
Publisher Mark Helmer keeps his receivership scores high by making customer questions and delivery complaints a top priority. Circulation staff at The Shopper and The Free Press papers follow up immediately if a customer says he or she did not receive the paper. Staff either directs the customer to nearby racks, or someone redelivers the paper. But the key to high receivership, according to Helmer, is proactive follow up the following week. His circulation manager always calls the customer back the next week to make sure he or she has received the next issue. Most customers are thrilled by this level of service.

View the 44 2006-2007 Gold Standard Award winners listed by rank.

Be sure to watch for additional nuggets from CVC’s new Gold Mine in future issues of By The Numbers!

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